Coron may already be marvelous as it is, but Busuanga municipality adds a more rugged and idyllic experience to visitors in Busuanga island. I call Busuanga as the wild west. Imagine an island where exotic animals roam freely. An island with imposing limestones and stunning soft white sand beach. Our first stop in our exploration of Busuanga is the Calauit Safari Park. Ever wondered how the exotic animals are now? Me too.
Where is Busuanga
The municipality of Busuanga shares the island of Busuanga with the municipality of Coron. Coron in the east. Busuanga on the west. It also includes the island sof Calauit up north and portions of the Calamianes islands in the east. This includes the westernmost West Nalaut island.
Franciso B Reyes Airport in Coron also serves the municipality of Busuanga.
Calauit Safari Park Story
The Calauit Safari Park began with an interesting story on the lavishness of the Marcoses and their fancy for anything exotic. Including wild and exotic animals. Sometime in the mid 70’s, the Marcoses made great lengths and spent resources to procure 104 exotic animals from Kenya, Africa. These includes a collection of 12 bushbucks, 11 elands, 11 gazelles, 15 giraffes, 18 impalas, 12 waterbucks, 10 topis, and 15 zebras. Eight different species of the animals transported from Africa to the coast of Busuanga.
Calauit island was chosen as it resembles the wild and harsh landscape of Africa. They think the animals would easily adapt to the island environment. The island is segregated by a narrow channel enough to minimize human poaching and other predators. They call it the mini-Serengeti. A year before the animals came, the 3,700-hectare island was already declared a wildlife sanctuary and game preserve. In 2009, the park was opened for the public.
Maintaining the Park
At least four decades after, with a few season of typhoons, human poaching, natural predators and recently a pandemic, the park and some of the animals are still alive. From eight species only 4 species survived. Thriving on the island are all Filipinos being island born. No more original stock. There are now 28 zebras from the original 15 and more giraffes as well. Roaming along the safari are the endangered Calamian deer.
It was a challenge for the caretakers of the island to continue maintaining and caring for the animals when the pandemic hit. Since there were no money coming in from tourist, they had to dig dip into their pockets, ask help from LGU and kind donors. Now that tourism in Busuanga island is opening up, they welcome tourist to bounce back.
Palawan Safari Experience
I was told much of the road in Busuanga has improved. Most of the roads we took were paved with a few scenic spots along the way. But if you’re one who easily gets motion sickness, make sure to open the car windows on sharp winding and hilly roads.
We reached the jump-off point to the island. A small pier is there where boats are ready to take us for a short 10-minute boat ride to the island. A modified passenger truck with wrapped around decal of safari graphics was waiting for us. But first we had to register. It was nice to see the staff implementing safety protocols for guest. There’s a hand-washing area on arrival. The registration booth has a protective plastic for contact-less registration of guest.
It was my first time here so I was excited to see the safari. The ride on the dirt road was short, less than a kilometer I guess, until we arrived at the viewing area. It was exciting to see giraffes, zebras and deers freely roaming in the area. But I guess they are so used to human presence and being fed by them that they don’t linger as far.
We had a brief orientation about the safari and proceeded to feed the giraffes. I think they were as excited as us. We went into a fenced area to feed them. The fence was necessary to keep the giraffes at bay and avoid being kicked. It was fun. We observed the zebras with a few foals (young zebras) with them. The deer were pretty laid back. Some were just lying under the tree but still have a safe zone distance. I decided to walk back instead instead of taking the truck. I found a bunch of green imperial pigeons there. A couple even. This species is known to be very loyal to their partners.
I enjoyed the walk back. The quiet the island offers with only the wind, rustling leaves and a few bird calls can be heard. The park may have started as a safari-dream playground by the Marcoses but there’s no way we can just leave these exotic animals to fend for themselves. They are already in the island. People working on the park was successful to locally breed some of the exotic species. Let’s support the Calauit Safari Park for their work on taking care of the island and its wildlife.
At the moment, there are no changes on the park fees.
|PWD/ Seniors/ Students
|Safari Tour Fee
|• 3 Person
|• 5 Person
|• 10 Person
Booking a Tour
For hassle free visit to Busuanga, it is best to book with a DOT-accredited tour operator. For our trip, we used Coron Blue Lagoon Adventure Travel and Tours.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.